Letting Go (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #12)

This one is difficult to write. The issue is not as widespread as some I have written of lately, but for some it is the most intense. Without further suspense, I speak of adult children, often times parents themselves, of parents in the Independent Baptist world. Again, this is not unique to us as if springs from a temptation for every parent–not letting go.

There is the more visible manifestation of this problem in one of the smaller segments of the Independent Baptist world. You will see a family that lives in a way similar to the Amish or Mennonites. They will often dress that way and live cloistered from the world. I am not criticizing them for that lifestyle because if they feel they should live that way to honor the Lord, it isn’t my place to say it is wrong even if I feel that the Lord is not asking that of me. I know some of them love the Lord as much as I do.

What is an issue is how at times the family is handled. The man is rigidly in charge and makes every decision to the smallest detail. I have seen some of the mothers in this environment who seem to often be looking downcast and unhappy, but that is a discussion for another day. Then there are the children. Becoming a legal adult changes nothing. I have seen several men and women in their mid-20s who couldn’t go even to town without parental permission. To decide on a life course or whom to marry is out of the question. The parents will decide, require long courtships, and have endless hoops for their grown children to jump through. My first thought is that if your child is incapable to make good decisions on their own by 25, you should make a public confession that you have already failed. By then, you have missed your chance. If these young folks ever get the courage to go their own way, the greatest pressure is often brought to bear. It kind of reminds the of Amish and their shunning. The parents are the patriarch and matriarch and naturally are the spiritual gurus for the whole family. Perhaps you shake your head and say this is ridiculous.

Much more surprising, and not as obvious, is another segment that in no way look like the Amish but demand a role in their adult children’s lives that robs them of standing on their own in life and before the Lord. Often times they are the ones with the higher standards and feel those standards are some of the most critical things of the Christian life. I have no criticism of anyone’s standards as long as they realize that it is not their place to impose them on everyone else.

A real problem arises when those adult children go through a process that all believers must go through–feeling a necessity to know what the Lord wants for themselves and then making that the way they live their lives. All too often that may mean a few differences in detail than what their parents followed. Of course I would like my children to reach my same conclusion on everything, but I am not naive enough to think it will happen. For that matter, I really, when my head is on straight, want them to follow Christ instead of me anyway!

Then comes the crisis. There is the parents who they love on the one hand, and the Lord they love even more on the other. The parents feel rejected, dishonored, and unloved if they follow the Lord, or there is the guilt of not giving the Lord the first place if they follow the parents to keep the peace. It is pretty much a rotten ordeal either way, though there is really only one option to a Christian. Some withdraw from their children and practically break fellowship with them!

In addition to knowing several people personally in different families going through this situation, we have several more write either my wife or I since we have been blogging telling us of going through this problem. The names are different, the issues may be different (dress standards, church of choice, or some other standard), but the pain is the same. Relations are strained, holidays are awkward, and a rift grows. And it simply should not be.

Points For These Parents Of Adult Children To Consider:

1. Does the Lord deal with us in this way?
2. Even if you are sure your adult children are making a mistake, did the Prodical’s Father treat the Prodical Son in that way?
3. Where is your Scriptural permission to act in such a way?
4. Is it worth losing your grandchildren too?
5. Are your motives 100% pure? Is part of the your disappointment that you have made a big point out of the standard in question and it embarrasses you when others see that one of your adult children is not following what you have made a key point of your life? (A few of the cases I know about personally had one of the parents say to their adult child, “you are damaging my ministry by your change”).
6. Is it working? Are your methods yielding the results you want?

I appeal to you to let go. Your time to mold them is over. You only have influence now and you surely don’t want to throw it away because you can’t have a control you have no right to anyway.

Points For Adult Children Who Have These Issues With Their Parents:

1. Remember you are not alone.
2. You may not be able to take the unpleasantness away.
3. Love your parents.
4. But follow Christ. As you well know, He is worthy of first place. This point is non-negotiable.
5. Remember that in a few short years you will face the same problem with your children.
6. Raise your children where your control decreases and their personal decision making increases so that when they reach the steps of adulthood they can go on making their own way as we all must. You have about 18 or so years per child to get the job done. May our Lord help us as we go bumbling along the road of parenthood.
7. Don’t repeat the mistake later that causes you pain now.

I sincerely pray that many families can turn the corner on this perplexing issue.

Find all articles in the series here:

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17 thoughts on “Letting Go (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #12)

  1. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

  2. Very good, Jimmy. As we, and many of our friends, have come to terms with some of the issues you have been addressing, many family members do not understand what is happening. While we look at it as following the Lord and His leading, others make the determination that we have compromised as we are not following their lead and living according to their standards. Thanks for the poignant advise!

  3. Very good and insightful information. Though we are no longer IFB we love the Lord more than ever. This is a bigger issue than you have stated and it is the way most IFB pastors believe. Love your perspective.

  4. Your articles are timely and challenging. And this is an issue I’ve seen FAR too much of, having been influenced by the IFB movement for over two decades.

    I have been an eyewitness to the phenomenon of the woman who appears to be living a beaten-down life,accompanying her what-I-say-goes husband frequently, particularly coming from a certain well-known IFB school. This scenario is truly a shame.

    I have also been eyewitness to the courtship strategy which dictatorial and overprotective parents use to manipulate their children into reluctant compliance. This, too, is an embarassment to the body of Christ.

    I enjoy these articles. The Church needs bloggers who call things from the perspective of a concerned observer as you do.

  5. Pastor Jimmy, again I know first-hand of what you speak, and I agree with all you have said. But in our experience the issue usually goes in another direction. They realize that all the man-made rules are empty, but it is easier to walk away altogether than to seek a relational walk with Christ. And, believe it or not, the parents are more accepting of their children wallowing in sin than they are of them choosing to “move camps”, This is proof that they believe the real enemy is their brother in Christ. I commend those who have come out of this pharisetical way of life to truly be a truth seeking disciple of Jesus.

  6. This hits close to home for me. I voiced my concern to my parents about the church I grew up in as well as the IFB movement, and suddenly I’ve become the black sheep, prodigal, rebellious failure they never wanted. My dad actually roots for me to fail in life because I attend a Southern Baptist church and wear jeans. He even goes so far as frequently telling my little sister that she shouldn’t be close to me, because I’ll lead her astray from God. It’s strange really. I wish he had an open enough mind to be willing to read this article.

    • Jennifer, I am so sorry for your pain. I have a sister that no longer will have any kind of relationship with me because I don’t carry the same bible she does. I know the pain of being rejected. Please know that the Lord “brings the solitary into families”. I have found this to be true. I pray for my sister that she will find the liberty in Christ that Jesus came to give. Understand that they need their rules to feel spiritual. They are not really reacting out of hate, but of fear.

    • I read this verse this morning and thought of you. “When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me.” — Psalm 27:10

  7. I am one of those parents. In our early years of church attendance we were influenced by some people in our church. We cared for what they thought of us because of this we followed them. It was not until later, after they left after a church split, that we realized the damage we had done to our children. I have three boys, great boys, I love them to death, but my middle kid got hurt and now does not attend church anymore. He got married to a lovely girl, but she is not someone we would have chose. My heart breaks for him, but I feel guilty because I feel like I failed and have even been told this by my Pastor. I know that I raised him right and especially in his later teen years tried to be less legalistic but I think the seeds were already sown. My wife and I have not abandoned him or his wife, we just pray that they will get into church and start serving the Lord with joy and peace.

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